Forever Friends

Feisal Alkazi Neeta Gangopadhya
RGF Pratham
S E R I E S

Original Story (Hindi) Dosti Ka Safar by Feisal Alkazi © Rajiv Gandhi Foundation – Pratham Books, 2008

First English Edition: 2008

Illustrations: Neeta Gangopadhya English Translation: Feisal Alkazi

ISBN: 978-81-8479-019-1

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Forever Friends
Written by

Feisal Alkazi
Illustrated by

Neeta Gangopadhya
English Translation by

Feisal Alkazi

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here was once a jungle, so full of trees, that even if you tried you couldn't count them. And so full of animals and birds that you wouldn't be able to fit them into a zoo. All the trees and the animals and the birds of the jungle lived together happily. One day a parrot was flying over this jungle, and seeing the lovely jungle he was so happy that he wanted to sing. But as he opened his mouth to sing, the seeds he was carrying in his beak tumbled out, one after the other! And as they reached the ground one of the seeds pushed its way deep into the soil. It sprouted a leaf that grew upwards and a root that grew downwards. And the seed found itself a home in the jungle. From this seed a tree began to grow. A large and beautiful tree. A morinda tree. All around this baby

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tree stood old and unfriendly trees who worked through the day and slept through the night. So there was just no one to play with the morinda. He grew more and more lonely. One day he told the parrot, “Listen, I am very grateful that you dropped me here, in this beautiful forest. But I am very lonely now so can you get a friend for me?” The very next morning the parrot flew out to find a friend for the morinda tree. He flew far away and by evening he returned with another seed. He pushed it into the soil with his beak and the seed sprouted a leaf that grew upwards and a root that grew downwards. And soon a baby tree began to grow near the morinda. The morinda was happy, for now he had a friend. Both the trees, the morinda and the himu grew up together. As one sprouted a leaf, so did the other. As one danced in the cool monsoon breeze, so did the other. They both loved each other very dearly and promised one another, “We will always be friends whatever happens. We enjoy each other’s company such a lot!”

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But one day the silence of the jungle was shattered by an unfamiliar sound – the roar of a truck. A heavy, frightening sort of sound. Out of this truck, a large man appeared with long legs and a big moustache. He had a deep voice too. “Yes, park the truck here. I've bought this entire jungle. All these trees belong to me now. Wah! What a fine jungle it is. I'll cut the trees and sell the wood and I'll become soooo rich! Hmm! Let us start immediately. Cut this tree, and that one and that one too….” Both the friends were frightened and upset. Who was this man? And why did he want to cut down all the trees? What would happen to both of them? They shivered with fear. “Wah! Wah!” the big man exclaimed. “The best trees are in a group

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here. Look at this morinda, how much money we can get for its wood. Cut it down immediately. We'll take it to the mandi today and get a good price. The himu tree next to it can also fetch a good price but it is much too young. We'll cut it down when it is a bit older.” The himu tree was worried. Oh dear, what would he do? If his friend the morinda was cut down, he would be left all alone in the forest. With a dreadful crash the morinda fell on the forest floor. “Now cut off all its branches! What are you waiting for?” And almost immediately the himu tree heard, “Now which fool has cut this himu tree down?

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Didn't I just say we'd cut it later. Who has done this?” “Not me sir!”, “Not me.” “Not me.” “Well if no one's cut it down, then how is it lying here? How can a young, healthy tree just collapse?” The big man sounded really angry. “But Sir come and see, there's not even the mark of an axe on it.” “It’s obviously fallen by itself.” The big man was examining the himu now. The workers were right. It was obviously ill and it had collapsed. Well… so what… he could still sell it… even if he only got a low price. “Gather it up with the others. Lets take them all to the mandi…” And so both the friends, the himu and the morinda reached the mandi. One, because he had

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been cut down, the other because he didn't want to be parted from his friend. The mandi was full of many trees, so many trees that you couldn't even count them – really only trunks of trees, because their branches, leaves and roots had been chopped off. The himu and the morinda were made to stand leaning against a wall with several others. Their bodies ached where they had been cut. Everything here was new to them. Their friend, the parrot was nowhere to be seen. But at least they had one another. As long as they stayed together, things would be fine. A pine tree standing close-by called out to them, “How can you even think you'll always be together? No one in their right mind will buy both a himu and a morinda tree together. Forget it.” The two friends got really upset. The pine tree was so old, almost a hundred. He had so much experience, how could he be wrong? His wood

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was so expensive. They felt small and unimportant compared to him. Suddenly another tree spoke up, a sal tree. Tall and dominating, almost 4060m high. He said “Shh, shh don't listen to the words of the pine tree. He is such a show off. Always trying to bully others. Each tree has its own value, its own worth.” And then a tiny voice broke the silence, “Do the two of you want to remain together forever?” It was the tiny, raspy voice of a bamboo. “I know everyone doesn't think much of me, but I'll do everything I can to help you.” The himu and morinda didn't believe him. They grew more and more quiet and afraid. How could a thin little bamboo help them?

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The very next day a toymaker arrived at the mandi. A bright turban on his head and twinkling eyes. He was looking for wood to make toys for children. As he walked past the row of cut trees, suddenly the bamboo fell in front of him. “Oh dear, what's wrong!” the toy maker exclaimed. “Bamboo, stand up straight and tall,” and lifting the bamboo carefully he put it back in place. And then he saw the morinda. “What a beautiful morinda tree! This is ideal to carve into toys for children. But let me look further. If I don't find anything else in the mandi, I'll definitely buy this tree…” And the bamboo fell in the toymaker's path once again.

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“Oops, what a strange bamboo this is. He keeps toppling over,” The toymaker gave a little laugh as he propped up the bamboo once more. After going around the whole mandi, the toymaker bought the morinda tree. He was just on his way out when Bang! Clatter! The bamboo was once more in front of him, blocking his way. “Why is this bamboo behaving in this strange way? Is he trying to tell me something?” The toymaker wondered. “Hmm, that tree next to the morinda looks lonely, let me buy it as well. It's a himu tree, good for making toys too. The two trees obviously share a close relationship.” And so the toymaker bought the himu tree too. And carrying both of them, he went home.

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The toymaker's home was overflowing with toys. There were so many toys here, that even if you tried you wouldn't be able to count them. And he had made so many different types of animals, that they wouldn't have fitted into a zoo. The very same day, the toymaker began to make the morinda into a toy. First he made four legs,

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then a head with two perky ears, then a body with a tail. What do you think he had made? A dog? A camel? An elephant? The morinda himself did not know which animal the toymaker had turned him into. But once the toymaker had completed him in every way, he took him and placed him in front of a mirror.

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The morinda saw that he was now a horse! A handsome horse with large eyes and a bushy tail. And now it was himu's turn. First, four legs, then a head, two tiny cute ears, then a body with a tail. Can you guess what he was? Another horse? No. An elephant? No. Perhaps a giraffe? Certainly not. Himu had become a deer! A beautiful deer with a curving neck and gentle eyes. “Hmm, I've never made such beautiful animals before. And how smart they look together. There's definitely a close bond between these two.” How happy the morinda and himu were! Not only were they still together but they'd also been transformed into attractive animals.

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The same night, for it was a full moon night, all the toys in the workroom came alive. “Hullo, hullo!” “Look, some lovely new toys have come to stay with us.” “How wonderful you look!” “Come dance with us.” The animals chatted gaily with the pair. “Do you like the toymaker?” “We all love him a great deal.” “He also cares for all of us so much that he'll never sell us, never!” “Shall I tell you what happened once? A gypsy came by and she was ill, very ill. The

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toymaker looked after her so well that she recovered quickly. The gypsy was extremely grateful that he had been so kind. She told him that whatever he asked for, she would grant, for she had the gift of magic. And do you know what the toymaker wanted most of all?” “What did he ask for? What did he want most of all?” Excited chatter filled the air. “He wished that on the night of the full moon, his toys should all come alive, and dance and sing the night away.” “And that's why we sing and dance and have lots and lots of fun every full moon night!”

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“Though of course the toymaker never believed the gypsy's story. Can you imagine he still doesn't know that we animals come alive every time the moon is full.” The night passed swiftly by. And soon it was time for dawn. The himu and morinda were so happy to be among so many new friends. And the toymaker? He was extra special for them. How they loved him! They looked forward to seeing him in the morning. But the toymaker never came into the workroom that day or the next day. Or even the third day. The toys began to get worried. What had happened to him? They could only check out on the night of the next full moon. And when that night came, the toys heard a sneezeand another sneeze and a cough from the next room.

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“Oh dear, our beloved toymaker has fallen ill.” “What shall we do?” “He's not going to die, is he?” “Come on, let’s all go and visit him.” When the door opened and all the toys peeped in, the toymaker was so shocked he almost fell out of his bed! Seeing him huddling below his thin quilt, the animals decided they needed to call a doctor. But where would they get the money from? “One of us will have to be sold to get the money.” “But who? And how?” Without waiting for a minute, the horse and the deer came out of the toymaker's home and stood by the side of the road. They were sure that quite soon somebody would pass by and buy them.

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Then there would be enough money to call the doctor, and buy the medicines. They stood there through the day but not a single person passed by. They were almost giving up hope when they heard a distant sound. The sound of a circus parade approaching. Drums and trumpets, the laughter of jokers, the roar of tigers and soon the circus was in sight.

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Brightly dressed acrobats led the parade followed by dancing horses, clowns on one-wheel cycles, beautiful dancers….. “Stop!” A voice barked out the order. The circus manager walked up to himu and morinda, “What a beautiful horse. And an exquisite deer. I will buy both of them for the merrygo-round in my circus. Let me see what is the price on

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the tag around their necks? Only twenty rupees each! What a bargain!” The circus manager pulled out a fat wallet and counting out forty rupees pushed it under the toymaker's door. He whisked the deer and the horse under his arms and the circus parade started off again. “Arre! Arre! Arre!” The toymaker's eyes widened with surprise when the money was pushed under the door. “Where has this money come from? I'll just go to the doctor but first let me tell the toys the good news…” But when he opened the door to the workroom he immediately noticed that the horse and the deer were missing. Where on earth had they gone, he wondered. By now they were both miles away attached to the merry-go-round in the circus. As the music began, children would clamber on and sit on them and the merry-go-round whirled them round and round.

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Both himu and morinda were thrilled as they moved round and round the merry-go-round. But then a thought struck the horse, “Where is the deer?” They had both been fixed on opposite sides of the merry-go-round. They couldn't even see one another. The horse thought I'll gallop and catch up with the deer. He must be wondering where I am. And as the music started, he began to gallop faster and faster and faster still but the deer remained as far as when he had started. Then the horse thought maybe

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I'm going too fast. So my friend the deer is getting left behind. If I move slower he'll catch up with me. But try as he might, he didn't succeed. Many days passed by in this way. Daytime was fun–the noise and laughter of children as they took their rides, the constant galloping; but by evening everything was silent and quiet. How much they wanted to be together, to chat and laugh but the distance between them was so great that they couldn't even talk. One night, a storm broke out over the circus. Pouring rain, thunder and lightning. By morning, the horse and deer were in a sad state. When the manager came by he looked at them and said, “This horse is totally drenched and is looking miserable. And look at the deer, his colour has washed off. I don't want such sad looking animals on my merry-go-round. Remove them at once and throw them away.” And that is exactly what happened. For many days, they lay on a rubbish dump. But they were happy,

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extremely happy because they were together again. Then one evening they heard the sound of a little girl crying. Every day the little girl had come to the merry-goround and had gone for a ride on the deer. She really enjoyed it. And the day she didn't see the deer anymore, she was upset.

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But now that she had found both the deer and the horse, she persuaded the circus manager to let her buy them. And she took them home. Imagine their surprise when to paint them afresh, she called the very same toymaker! Till today the himu and the morinda live with the little girl, happy and content to be together. Forever friends!

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Green Gyan
Every tree has a story to tell and this particular story was inspired by two actual trees that grow in the Himalayas. The himu is a large deciduous tree, often used for carving and furniture. In English, it is known as the mulberry tree. The morinda is a large evergreen tree known in English as the west Himalayan spruce. It is used extensively to make railway sleepers, furniture, ceilings and floors. Trees were, are and will always be essential for our survival. Have you ever heard the heartbeat of a tree? Difficult to believe! But if you take a doctor's stethoscope and hold it to the bark of a tree, you will be amazed to hear the wonderful, crackling flow of life. Deciduous trees are better for listening to and you need to choose a tree that is at least six inches in diameter and has thin bark. You may have to try several different places on the tree trunk before you find a good listening spot! Scientists have also now proved without a doubt that trees can communicate with one another and that when they are cut or broken, they scream! Surprisingly experiments also prove that one tree can feel the pain of another or even of a person who regularly tends it. Trees also respond to music and to human conversation. So the story you have just read is based on a lot of scientific fact!

Namaste, I am Shreya. I enjoy played carrom. I am going to study hard to become a Doctor. I love reading books too!... Thank you for buying this book. My friends and I will get to read many more books in our library because you bought this book.

Educationist, social activist and theatre director, Feisal Alkazi lives and works in New Delhi. Over the past 35 years he has regularly worked with children in non-formal education, environment and heritage education, television and drama. He is the author of 14 books for children and teachers, in English and Hindi.

A post graduate from the College of Art, New Delhi, Neeta Gangopadhya has illustrated several books for children. She represented India at the Biennale of Illustrations, Bratislava in 1995. Her illustrations are included in the book "Once upon a time in India" which has been nominated for the IBBY Honour List, 2006.

Himu and Morinda stood next to each other in the forest and were the best of friends. But their idyllic life soon turns upside down when they find themselves turned into wooden toys! Read this heartwarming story of two trees who remain friends forever.

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ISBN 978-81-8479-019-1

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